Album Title: Les Lumières
This is the second full-length album from Asteria, a Swiss band playing progressive black metal.
The production on this album is quite clear, with the emphasis on the layered guitars. The drums are nice and crisp, though the cymbal sound is a little washy. I really like the synth sound, as well; it's much more classical-sounding than most, especially during the intro to "The Promised Land". The vocals alternate between rasped and clean singing, and are a bit too high in the mix for my taste, but it's a fitting production overall.
Asteria's songwriting is almost entirely riff-based, with tons of intricate, interlocking guitar parts. The guitar work here is relentlessly progressive and melodic, but with an evil-sounding edge -- it sounds a bit like what you might get if Tony Banks had played guitar for Mercyful Fate! Very cool, and much more interesting and appropriate than the wall-o-drone you usually hear from "progressive" black metal bands these days. I'm usually turned off by clean singing, but the guitar here is so symphonic that it almost demands it, and the vocal performance is largely quite convincing; the clean and raspy voices are perfectly balanced, and both seem to add to the atmosphere of the album.
Of course, Les Lumières is not perfect. The clean singing is a little iffy now and again -- though that seems appropriate enough for the black metal aesthetic -- and some of the transitions are too abrupt, like the end of "Confessions". That said, this record is more than unique and interesting enough to make up for it. Those who like their metal operatic and evil should check this out; those who appreciate the more symphonic side of Master's Hammer or Sigh might also give this a shot. Recommended.
Standout Tracks: "Herr, Unser Herscher", "Pè Onna Nai Qu'étive La Pe Naire", "Genua, Post Tenebras Lux"